This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

September-October 2017

REVIEW: New novel draws on elements of Chinese mythology and magic

Inside Lydia Kwa's Oracle Bone

Ryan B. Patrick

978-1-55152-699-7-OracleBoneOracle Bone
By Lydia Kwa
Arsenal Pulp Press, $19.95

Oracle Bone is Vancouver-based poet and author Lydia Kwa’s latest foray into magic-realist fiction. Drawing on elements of Chinese mythology, the novel centres on an oracle bone, a mystical artifact used for divination purposes. Kwa’s unadorned prose maintains a rich, cinematic vigor, leaning on historical literary traditions without veering into exoticism. Set in 7th-century China, Oracle Bone’s engaging tripartite plot maintains structural clarity. Main protagonist Ling’s transformative journey from enslavement to warriorhood by way of supernatural martial arts masterfully explores timely themes of gender empowerment and identity in the process.

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